- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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I have to admit, today is a little depressing. Pro football has joined college football in the completed column for the season, leaving us with no games for months.
To get over that sadness, let's look ahead. Here are my choices for the Big East's top six nonconference games to look forward to in 2011:
LSU at West Virginia, Sept. 24: It's rare that a big-time SEC power comes to Big East turf, and that's what we have here as LSU has a chance to be really good in 2011. Can the Mountaineers notch a signature victory at home? And how will Dana Holgorsen's offense match up with what is always a fierce Tigers defense?
South Florida at Notre Dame, Sept. 3: There is the Skip Holtz/Lou Holtz angle at work. The Irish likely will be ranked in the Top 20, and USF could be an early preseason favorite in the Big East. This should be an outstanding way to open the season.
Syracuse at USC, Sept. 17: The Orange had a breakthrough season in 2010, and were especially good on the road. Well, here's a major road challenge, and also a major opportunity to make a statement early in the season. The Trojans aren't as intimidating as they used to be.
Pittsburgh at Iowa, Sept. 17: After opening with Buffalo and Maine at home, this figures to be the first real test for new coach Todd Graham. How will that new wide-open offense play in Big Ten country? The Panthers also have Notre Dame and Utah at home in a loaded non-league slate.
Cincinnati at Tennessee, Sept. 10: Nothing like playing in front of 100,000 opposing fans in the second week of the season to see where your team is. After a 4-8 campaign, the Bearcats will get an early read on how much they have bounced back under Butch Jones.
Louisville at North Carolina, Sept. 3: The Cardinals open on the road -- possibly with a true freshman starting quarterback -- against a program that has loads of talent. Is Louisville ready to take another step forward? A team that will be watching this one intensely is Rutgers, which plays the Tar Heels in Chapel Heel a week later.